One question that regularly comes up in the travelling, micronational, and general trivia circuits is the question “is there any land on earth that hasn’t been claimed by a sovereign country”?
Basically, if you fancied raising a posse and starting your own nation, is there anywhere unclaimed that you could just rock up and take? The general assumption is that with the world being, well massive, huge in fact there must be a fair bit up for grabs still. Alas despite the world being huge, there’s a lot of countries out there (193 + depending on where you sit), and they tend not to leave too much out there for potential nation builders, but there are a couple of anomalies out there for the potential nation founder.
The first point of call here is a favourite for people claiming land, and that is Antarctica! So, who owns Antarctica? Britain, Australia, New Zealand, U.S.A., France, Norway, Chile and Argentina originally claimed portions of the continent (often overlapping), with them planning a condominium to oversee the continent (and exclude the Russians), until the pesky USSR decided to claim their own bit, which long story short resulted in the Antarctic Treaty of 1959, which meant that whilst bases could be made, no one could claim sovereignty. The short answer basically being that whilst no one officially has sovereignty over Antarctica, you’d have to go to war with people like Russia and America if you wanted to claim your own land. This does ignore one quite interesting anomaly, whilst most of the continent of Antarctica has a claim from a “real” country, there is a portion known as the Mary Byrd Land that’s pretty damned massive, that no one currently claims. Well, when I say no one, no sovereign state claims it, although there are hundreds of Micronations that do, alas none have tried to settle it yet.
The second port of call for unclaimed land that could be claimed for a country is quite interesting, since one group have done just that. They have created arguably the most successful Micronation of late, Liberland. After the breakup of Yugoslavia and the somewhat frosty relations between Serbia, and Croatia there were a number of islands in the Danube that Croatia informed Serbia belonged to them, Serbia on the other said they didn’t want them, and then, well there’s a load of islands that no one but makers of Micronations want to claim. That being said, no one has actually started building forts or putting a McDonalds there just yet.
Which leads us to the last bastion of terra nullius, the cream of the crop of unclaimed land; Bir Tawil! Bir Tawil is a pretty huge piece of unclaimed land, standing at 2060 square kilometres and is a landlocked area between Egypt and Sudan. The reason why no one claims it is that basically during British colonial times there were two maps drawn up, one in 1899, and one in 1902, with both nations recognizing the one that benefits them the most, meaning one useful bit of land that both of them claim, and Bir Tawil, the shit bit that neither of them wants. If either claims the land, they can’t claim the bit they actually want! So what does this mean? In reality, Bir Tawil us under the defacto control of Egypt, although Egypt does not show it on any maps. The area is also barren and without population, bar the odd Bedouin that pops through on their nomadic ways? So, in theory, you can claim it, right? Well yes, anyone can claim it, and plenty do, but as Tyler Durden once said “sticking feathers up your arse does not make you a chicken”. The only thing close to a claim was in June 2014, Jeremiah Heaton planted a flag in Bir Tawil to claim the region as a new sovereign state, essentially so he could make his daughter a princess, cute eh.
Another option, whilst not being terra nullius would be to buy your own island, and make your own nation, like our friends at Lets Buy An Island, now whilst sovereign country that sells you said island might not let you form an army and invade other places, its probably the closest you can really get to some nation-building.
But for real terra nullius, the only true option is outer space, but you need a real budget, or at the very least to be good friends with Elon Musk to get anywhere with that.